I was doing research earlier this year and needed a paper summarizing a taxpayer funded project from 1967. This paper was not to be found anywhere else but at the NTIS. Libraries listed the NTIS as the place that had a copy. If the NTIS was not able to sell me a copy of the paper, then I would not have been able to get the information. Closing the NTIS only makes sense if the entire contents of the NTIS's archives are made available on the Internet.
The problem is that the most popular NTIS stuff is already on the net, but the remaining 30% (the long tail) is not.
The federally funded research was about these large (miles in radius) circles found in Nevada. There was conjecture that they were from a nuclear test. It turns out that they were from a toxic cloud test that was done using a solid rocket engine treated with beryllium. See http://pacaeropress.websitetoo..., http://aair.smugmug.com/Aviati... and http://blackrockdesert.org/wik...
The NTIS had the paper in question, which I was able to get and confirm that the semi-circles were created as part of the test. There was no mention of the test in the local papers or anywhere else I could find. If the NTIS did not have the paper, then my only hope would have been to ask Aerojet, the company contracted to do the research. The odds of them having a paper from 1967 is pretty low.
I realize that this question is not a critical, life threatening question, but determining *why* the circles where there and dispelling rumors about nuke tests is useful. The pursuit of the truth is lofty goal. Those who do not know history are bound to repeat it. In the case of this study, it turns out that there was an inversion layer that prevented a bunch of the particulate matter from reaching the ground in the test site. Maybe this is a well know mechanism now, but if I were researching atmospheric pollution, then I would want to review a study like this. If this study is not accessible, then it is like it never happened.
If the NTIS is disbanded, then we are basically tossing a bunch of tax-payer funded projects in to the shredder.
Interestingly, Canada is going through a somewhat similar issue where libraries containing research materials are being closed. Here an article from 2012: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/...
I'm no fan of big government, but if the NTIS is to be closed, then the entire contents of the NTIS library must be made freely available.